Posts Tagged ‘pop goes the world’

pop goes the world: in memoriam: ed araullo

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  24 January 2013, Thursday

In Memoriam: Ed Araullo

Eduardo G Araullo How do you honor the dead?

Last January 19, lawyer Eduardo Araullo succumbed to a massive heart attack after his morning tai-chi exercise. He was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival.

He was an activist in his younger days, struggling against Martial Law during the First Quarter Storm. Throughout his life he remained involved in social causes that required a keen legal mind and a passion for truth and justice.

I first met him in 2010 when he was corporate secretary and, later, also compliance officer of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The night before he died – a Friday – he gave me reminders for Monday. “Don’t forget!” he roared. “I won’t, sir,” I said, hastily backing out of his office, eager to get my weekend started. “’Bye, sir!”

His sudden death the next day was a shock.

Life takes unexpected turns. Why don’t we appreciate the people who matter to us while they are still around?

* * * * *

I was privileged to have interviewed him in July 2012 about his experiences during the FQS. He invited me and two of his fellow lawyers to merienda at a restaurant beside Manila Bay. It was a gloomy, rainy day. I took his photograph against a background of shades of gray – sky, clouds, sea, puddles on the concrete pavement. His arms are folded as he looks sternly at the camera. The hem of his white short-sleeved barong floats in the wind.

Ed Araullo, Dek Porciuncula, Reena Yason

Lawyers Ed Araullo, Dek Porciuncula, Reena Yason. Manila Bay. July 2012. Photo by Jenny Ortuoste. 

He was a student at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) College of Arts and Sciences, taking Political Science, and later Law, when he became involved in the student movement. He joined the Left; he was on the UP Student Council and a member of the Kabataang Makabayan and Sandigang Demokratiko ng Kabataan.

He became politically aware, he said, “in the summer of 1965, after I graduated from high school. I took summer classes at UP. Then came the Vietnam War. It was 1967.

“I stopped praying in 1968. The existence of God is a non-issue to me. Ang importante, nakakatulong ka sa tao.

“I became most active around the age of 20. I went underground when martial law was declared. I was placed on the Order of Battle because I was active in school, mobilizing people and conducting rallies. When I was arrested by the Metrocom for acts of “subversion,” I was taken to Camp Crame, where the Metrocom beat me with bats. Sinuntok ako at hinampas ng bat sa dibdib. I saw now-senator Ping Lacson there at the Metrocom office. Bagong lieutenant pa lang siya noon.

“Then I was taken to Fort Bonifacio, then to the Youth Rehabilitation Center (YRC). Yung kulungan na iyon, showcase. We were well-treated there. Kasama doon mga delegates sa Con-Con. It was open to international inspection, kaya masarap ang pagkain.

“My father visited me in the center. He asked me, “Kaya mo?” “Kaya ko,” I answered. Matagal na akong missing sa bahay noon. Sa UP dorm ako nakatira.

“Prison was boring. We were in a one-story structure like a school. It was for the schooling of the military. We’d wake up, clean our cell, eat breakfast. We played basketball and Monopoly games that lasted for hours.

Ed Araullo in prison

Ed Araullo (second from right) in detention during Martial Law. Photo courtesy of Ed Araullo.

My family visited twice a week; my mother brought food. Puro sermon hanggang matapos. I was released six months later.

“After I was released I went underground again. Raising funds and whatever was needed sa bundok. Ang ka-grupo ko sila Nelia Sancho. Nasa Malabon kami. One day, naiwan ako sa safehouse doon. BInabantayan kami kasi ang tiyo ni Sancho nasa Intelligence. That night, ni-raid iyon, dalawa ang pinatay. Ang katawan nila, dinaanan ko pa, nasa munisipyo nakabalot sa banig.

“There was a time I was ready to join the New People’s Army under the name “Ka Glenn”. The week after I went to southern Tagalog to join them, I was caught. The others proceeded. They were all killed by the military.

“Why the name “Glenn”? Sa gupit ng buhok ko, kamukha ko ang artistang si Glenn Ford.

Sino si Glenn Ford? I-Google niyo.

“I withstood it all because our attitude at the time was willingness to sacrifice for the country.

“I never considered myself weak, but I had weaknesses. Those years made me stronger. Mature. I learned that I am not afraid to die for what I believe in.”

* * * * *

What I wanted him to tell me about during that interview were his feelings, not only his actions. What was it all for? Why did he fight against martial law?

“Because it was wrong.”

What else aside from personal freedom had he been prepared to give up?

“I was ready to die.”

Would he do it again?


What did he learn?

“Stand up for what you believe in. It’s worth it.”

It was hard to elicit much from him beyond cerebral responses.

I asked, “What did you feel?”

Attorney Ed replied, “It was an intellectual exercise. I don’t get emotional about these things.”

Much remained locked inside him. I could go no farther; he would not let me in behind the barriers he had erected to keep the feelings in.

I took my leave of him and waited by the curb for a ride. He followed me and whispered a few words.

“I still grieve for them, for those who died. I always remember.”

* * * * *

A few days later I wrote a version of that conversation for this column. The newspaper grazed Attorney Ed’s desk as he read it in his office.

He put it down with a rustle. “I like it.”

“I’m glad you do,” I said.

“I didn’t know you heard what I said about grieving for them.”

“I did.”

He nodded, pleased. For that short sentence was his homage to the fallen, in it all the other words he could not say to honor dead comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for something they believed in, something they believed was worth dying for.

              * * * * *

His daughter Sarah kindly let me choose from the collection of books he kept at the office. So I have a knee-high stack of books to remember him by, as well as an old Waterman fountain pen crusted with dried black ink.

The Ed Araullo I knew was a strong man – he had a strong voice, strong opinions, strong convictions. He was also curious. “Why?” was his favorite question. He didn’t judge, he just listened; if I was stumped for a reply, he would urge me, “Think!”

We honor the dead by remembering them.

I will honor his memory by thinking.

Let his words on this page be my tribute to him – lawyer, activist, thinker.   *** 

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pop goes the world: corporate social responsibility

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  17 January 2013, Thursday

Corporate Social Responsibility

The League of Corporate Foundations held a Corporate Social Responsibility Expo last July at the SMX Convention Center, and I was impressed by the number of companies that exhibited their CSR programs.

The expo focused on “social, environmental, and economic responsibility within an ethical framework while ensuring sufficient financial returns,” with President Benigno Aquino III as the keynote speaker to kickstart the event.

The Energy Development Corporation, which develops geothermal and other renewable energy sources, showed off their “BINHI” project for reforestation and biodiversity restoration, which so far has planted over 7.4 million premium and threatened Philippine tree species in about 9,900 hectares of forest land surrounding their five geothermal project areas.

energy develoopment corporation brochure

 A page from an EDC brochure.

The Aboitiz Group’s Aboitiz Foundation supports initiatives in education, environment, primary health and child care, and enterprise development, among others.

Coca-Cola Philippines’ CSR stands on four pillars: education, entrepreneurship, environment, and nutrition. Their programs include the Little Red Schoolhouse Project, which was to have completed 100 classrooms by the end of last year, and a partnership with the Department of Education for the TEN (The Entire Nation) Moves project, for 10,000 classrooms in ten months; the Nutri-Juice Intervention program also in cooperation with DepEd and other government agencies, which distributes a nutrient-fortified orange-flavored juice drink to thousands of children each year; and other CSR programs such as the Agos Ram Pump Water project and the National Convergence Program on Empowering Grassroots Women Entrepreneurs.

csr brochures philippines

“Sustainability” and annual reports: Sagittarius Mines, Aboitiz Group, and Manila Water. 

The Ayala Foundation supports, among other programs, Text2Teach, in cooperation with Nokia, Globe Telecom, the Department of Education, and SEAMEO-Innotech. The project delivers science education videos to schools via satellite, using mobile phones and a television.

The expo also offered booth space to interested companies, among them Ballet Philippines, with Executive Director Jennifer Lee-Bonto handing out brochures and souvenir programs while displaying Barbie dolls dressed in tutus and other colorful ballet costumes. Also presenting their CSR programs were Sagittarius Mines, Inc., San Miguel Foundation, and Manila Water, among many others.

ballet barbie brochure

The cover of Ballet Philipppines’ “Ballet Barbie” mini-book.

What I hope to see in future are more programs that support creative and literacy endeavors, such as spelling contests, art and photography contests, and creative writing workshops.

* * * * *

Speaking of writing workshops, here are a couple that are happening soon:

The University of St. La Salle-Bacolod is inviting young writers to submit their application for the 13th IYAS Creative Writing Workshop which will be held on 21-27 April at Balay Kalinungan, USLS-Bacolod.

Send original work in Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Tagalog or Filipino – poetry, short stories, or one-act plays – to Rowena Japitana, IYAS Secretariat, Special Project Office, University of St. La Salle, La Salle Avenue, Bacolod City, on or before March 1. Email questions to

IYAS is held in collaboration with the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center of De La Salle University-Manila and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

The Silliman University National Writers Workshop is extending the deadline of applications for the 52nd National Writers Workshop to January 25.The workshop will be held 6—24 May 2013 at the Silliman University Rose Lamb Sobrepeña Writers Village. Send inquiries to Prof. Ian Rosales Casocot at

The requirements for all these programs may be found online.

The UP Institute of Creative Writing is now accepting submissions for the seventh issue of Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, the Philippines’ leading literary peer-reviewed journal featuring the best of new and unpublished Philippine writing in English and Filipino.

National Artist for Literature and ICW adviser Bienvenido Lumbera is the issue editor, while fictionists Jun Cruz Reyes and Charlson Ong are the associate editors. Send short stories, poetry, creative non-fiction, critical and scholarly essays, and graphic stories/graphic novel excerpts to by April 5.

Meanwhile, the Taboan 2013: Philippine Writers Festival, the festival for literature by the NCCA, is set for 7-9 February in Dumaguete City.

Around 150 seasoned and emerging writers will attend, along with some foreign writers. This year’s focus is on Visayan literature, with discussions, a book fair, and food and cultural exhibits. Philippine cultural and arts scholar Dr. Resil B. Mojares will be the keynote speaker.   *** 

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pop goes the world: women’s reproductive rights

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  10 January 2013, Thursday

Women’s Reproductive Rights 

There’s a helpful flowchart on the Internet on “how to have an opinion on women’s reproductive rights”:

“Do you have a vagina?” “Yes.” “You may express your opinion.” If “no,” then “Shut up.”

women's reproductive rights meme

Image from Facebook here.

Too many men without vaginas have been controlling women’s reproductive rights throughout history, and one would think that in these technologically advanced times decisions that impact an individual woman would be left to her alone, and not meddled in by other people or groups.

For instance, with the recent signing by the President of the Reproductive Health Bill, which has already been published in the Official Gazette and will officially become a law a couple of weeks after, the Roman Catholic Church as represented by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has said that they will continue to fight against it by exploring options such as filing a case in the Supreme Court.

This was done recently by lawyers James and Lovely Ann Imbong, who are seeking to have the measure declared “null and void.”

The overpopulation of the Philippines is in fact beneficial to the country, at least according to Bishop Gilbert Garcera of the Diocese of Daet, Camarines Norte.

He said that the great number of Filipinos contribute to the influx of remittances from abroad, while caring for the elderly of other countries and spreading the Catholic faith, adding that Filipino women “would make good wives” for foreigners in low-population growth nations.

This is the thinking of the Church, at least of some prelates: that women are brood animals, and that Filipinos are fodder for the world’s economic mill. The OFW phenomenon is an artificial boost to the economy that sags when recession hits, and has brought many social ills besides, such as children growing up without one or both parents.

Here’s another example: Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was revealed to have granted P1.6 million in year-end bonuses to most of his fellow senators but only P250,000 to Senators Miriam Santiago, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Enrile had a spat with Trillanes over a bill to divide Camarines Sur province, while the other three are strongly identified for their support of the RH Bill, which Enrile fought against.

The passage of the Reproductive Health bill allows the state to grant women, who cannot afford contraceptives on their own, access to such means and methods that will permit them to limit the number of children they bear, if they so wish.

It is the individual woman who will become pregnant and carry the baby for nine months, with the responsibility of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements to ensure the health of the baby. Once it is born, she has to take care of her child’s basic needs and education until it is an adult, and, in our culture, even beyond. If the woman’s husband or domestic partner should leave her without support or be unable to support her, she shall have to find the ways and means to care for her child in all aspects.

mothers in the philippines

Mothers in the Philippines. Image here.

If a woman, after careful consideration of her resources and situation, deems that she can comfortably take care of only a certain number of offspring, or even none at all, is that not her choice? Not even her husband has a say, because she is not his property, and she is not livestock like a bitch dog or thoroughbred mare. Naturally, a couple must discuss this issue, with honesty and candor, before they enter into a permanent domestic relationship such as marriage.

So why do men of the church and men of politics still insist on controlling women’s reproduction, even their right to “safe and satisfying sex”? Why should only men be able to enjoy this?

Anyway, despite Church strictures against premarital sex and adultery, Filipinos still have a swinging good time, and have learned to cloak their sexual behavior with hypocrisy and various forms of compensatory social norms, cognitive dissonance be hanged.

Not only is the Church against contraception, it is also against divorce, and has vowed to combat any divorce bill that comes up for consideration. Being guided by blind faith, it is blind to the plight of desperately unhappy couples who have resorted tocohabiting with new partners because they do not have the chance of being able to legally cut ties and move on, hopefully to better and happier lives.

Life is too short to spend with the wrong person, and it will not do anyone any good who is forced to live in untenable situations that are for some marred by infidelity, violence, and abuse.

(To be fair, not all who belong to the Church think like this. A priest-psychologist who gave me counseling in a therapy session was actually the influence for my filing a marriage annulment.)

In 1993, during her confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee asked United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg justice ruth bader ginsburgabout her “thinking on equal protection versus individual autonomy, in relation to the issue of abortion:

“My answer is that both are implicated,” she said. “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself.”

Let the ones with vaginas decide on matters that concern them.  ***

Justice Ginsburg portrait here.

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pop goes the world: country curators converse

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  27 December 2012, Thursday

Country Curators Converse       

There’s an interesting communication phenomenon happening on Twitter through “country curators,” or Twitter accounts officially sanctioned by a country and handled by a different citizen or resident of that country each week.

The foremost example is @sweden, which opened its account in late 2011 as an initiative of two government agencies, the Swedish Institute (cultural promotion) and VisitSweden (tourism promotion).


Other accounts are @curatingturkey, @Netherlanders, @TwkUSA, @PeopleOfUK, @ireland, @PeopleOfCanada, @WeAreUkraine, @MoroccoCuration, @iam_pakistan, @CuratorsMexico, @ScotVoices, @WeAreFrance, and many more. The Philippines’ is @WeAreFilipinos.

There are also “city” accounts – @londonisyours, @PeopleOfLeeds, @WeAreDresden, @MunichLovesU, @TweetWeekManila, @WeAreMumbai, @AnotherToronto, @Bangkoking, and others.

In general, the main objective of a country Twitter account is to provide a portal for outsiders to that country through the Tweets of the week’s “curators,” in 140 characters or less per Tweet.

They explain customs and traditions, mention interesting places to visit, discuss current country and global events, share pictures, recipes, and get a conversation going between them and the rest of the Twitter world.

This holiday season, it was interesting to learn about the Christmas customs of different cultures. Ireland/Luke spoke about “the importance of ritual, reconnecting us with our childhood selves at Christmas, the power of nostalgia,” citing how his mother lighted “a candle in the window on Christmas Eve.” John Fay said his grandmother did the same thing and “left the door unlocked. Holy Family was welcome.” Rob from Ireland replied, “My nan used to hand two bars of soap to neighbours on Christmas Eve. She’d say it was for luck. No idea where she got it from!”


Luke later described their Christmas feast, starting with Slovakian soup (sauerkraut, sausage, ham, mushrooms, paprika), and “turkey, ham, stuffing, roast potatoes, sprouts w cream, pancetta & Parmesan, squash w pecans & Roquefort, red cabbage, gravy, bread sauce.”

For dessert they had “trifle, Christmas pudding, brandy butter, whipped cream, truffles, white macaroons, dessert wine,” giving credence to Luke’s assertion that “the average Irishman consumes 6,000 calories on Christmas Day.”

Their dinner discussion, Luke said, escalated into an argument “about bishops interfering with politics. Of course this is the stuff of history books, right?”

Apart from the holiday’s groaning tables of food and license for gluttony, that’s one more thing we have in common with Ireland.

Sweden’s curator this week, Hanna, recounts a “very Swedish tradition…at three o’clock we all watch Donald Duck and company (Disney clips) on national television!”

The accounts handled by real people (as opposed to account administrators, as ours seems to be), are real and vibrant. Sweden, for one, does not censor, no matter how offbeat the personality in charge for the week. In June, Sonja Abrahamsson, a self-described “low educated” 27-year-old single mother, incited controversy when she Tweeted about Jews and “used crude language” (according to an online news item). Her Tweets, while carefully monitored, were not deleted, but would have been taken down had they crossed into hate speech.

The Tweets from @WeAreFilipinos are informative – “To Catholic Filipinos, today is the start of Simbang Gabi, a series of nine pre-dawn masses leading up to Christmas Day,” or “Latest fashion trend for men: meggings (leggings for men)” – but they sound scripted because the style of writing is fairly consistent.

The bionote on the account says “A new Filipino every week,” but after scrolling through weeks of Tweets, I can’t find this – no introductions of the week’s curator, and so on. What I do see a lot of admin activities (marked by [ADMIN]), many retweets of a Fil-American named “Kyno”, and #FFs (Follow Fridays) of the other curated country accounts.


Too bad, because this is our chance to show the world different points of view of what a Filipino thinks and experiences, engaging the world with honesty, not one carefully moderating Tweets to present a certain image. That smacks too much of PR in the manipulative sense.

Communication theorist James Carey often quoted Kenneth Burke as saying, “Life is a conversation.” It’s one “that continuously goes on,” said Carey, where “No one has the last word; there are no final thoughts. There is no end to the conversation.”

Computer-mediated communication has given the world the ability to open and carry on conversations in real time, something that was once impossible. This has facilitated the discourse between cultures, at least for this particular audience.

There will always be differences, but we instinctively seek similarities to find common ground with each other, to bring about cooperation rather conflict. This is achieved through building trust. To build trust, truth is required.

Between countries and between individuals, let’s keep it honest.

* * * * *

To my dear readers, thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and ideas with you in 2012. My warmest wishes for health, peace, and prosperity in the New Year! ***  

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pop goes the world: moving on

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  20 December 2012, Thursday

Moving On

“Divorce Next – Belmonte” blared the front page of another broadsheet in 70-point black type, signaling renewed interest in the topic after the recent landmark passage of the reproductive health bill.

PDI divorce next

Image here. Photo of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte on the left.

The news article accompanying that headline cited House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as saying that he supports the divorce bill and thinks it possible that such a law could be passed by the next Congress.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that does not have a divorce law, an effect of prevailing cultural norms instilled during the Spanish colonial period and perpetuated by the Roman Catholic majority. Roman Catholicism forbids divorce but allows marriage annulment in a process governed by strict criteria.

However, divorce is available to Muslim Filipinos under Presidential Decree No. 1083, the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.” Under its Chapter III, divorce is recognized between Muslims and a Muslim man and his non-Muslim wife if married under Muslim law or this particular code, which “recognizes the legal system of the Muslims in the Philippines as part of the law of the land…”

Historically, divorce was widely practiced during pre-colonial times, according to an interesting blog post dated 5 August 2008 at the website Philippine e-Legal Forum of Jaromay Laurente Pamaos (JLP) Law Offices.

In the 16th century, absolute divorce was practiced by tribes as widely scattered as  the Igorots and Sagadans of the Cordilleras to the Tagbanwas of Palawan to the Manobos, B’laans, and Muslims of Visayas and Mindanao.

Also according to the JLP post, divorce was available during the American colonial period from 1917 to 1950. Divorce was not allowed in the New Civil Code that took effect in August 1950; only legal separation was, and this was adopted by the 1988 Family Code, which also “introduced the concept of ‘psychological incapacity’ as a basis for declaring [a] marriage void.”

There have been various incarnations of divorce bills filed in Congress as far back as 1999 at least. That one was filed by Representative Manuel C. Ortega (House Bill No. 6993). Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon filed one in 2001 (Senate Bill No. 782) as did Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo (HB No. 878). This was followed in 2005 by one filed by Reps. Liza Masa and Luzviminda Ilagan (HB 3461).

The most recent version is by Reps. Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus (HB 1799). Belmonte said that this bill is still at the committee level and will not be taken up soon, with congressmen busy preparing for next year’s elections.

Why do we need a divorce bill?

Because under existing laws, marriages may only be “annulled” or rendered void at the start. The process is long, tedious, and expensive (costing P200,000 or more), making it available only to the moneyed who can afford to hire lawyers and obtain the psychological report that affirms the psychological incapacity of one or both of the parties involved.

This is unfair to most Filipinos who do not have the means for this legal maneuver, and instead resort to separating from their spouses and living with other partners, often resulting in legal entanglements involving conjugal property, benefits, and inheritance – the fodder of telenovelas.

A divorce would recognize that the marriage did exist but should no longer continue for a number of reasons, including domestic violence, infidelity, abandonment, non-support, and so on.

The chief opponent to such a bill would be the Roman Catholic clergy. Having received a jarring setback in their campaign against the RH bill, proposing a divorce bill would quite likely further enrage them. [Postcript 20 Dec 2012: And it has - read here.]

But if Muslim Filipinos can have divorce, why can’t other Filipinos? Just because the Catholics don’t want to have divorces doesn’t mean they should stop others, especially non-Catholics, from having them.

Why should a religious group be allowed to dictate what other people should or shouldn’t do according to the tenets of their religion? Is that fair or just to others who don’t subscribe to their faith?

A person’s religion is often arbitrary, dictated by birth; the law then should be a support system that can care for all members of society regardless of the constructed and sometimes illogical regulations of whatever their religion may be. Laws are for the good of many, not the one (or the one group).

Let’s face it, our (predominantly Catholic) society is a hypocritical one. It bars divorce but to get around this, cultural norms developed where it is considered acceptable for men to have mistresses and illegitimate children while their wives have to suffer it for the sake of the family (unless they have their own intimate affairs), and legal go-arounds such as annulment have been devised that benefit the wealthy few, not everyone.

As adults with functioning brains we are all aware that some things don’t last forever, that people must move on from situations that don’t work anymore, that it is often better to cut and cut cleanly that to slog on in an unhappy marriage marred by misery and desperation.

We need a law that gives us a chance to move on and start over, and it is only abysmal stupidity and selfishness that will deny this.

And this is the best time to work for the divorce bill, right after the RH bill’s passage. The discourse on human rights in general and women’s rights in particular must continue and the momentum for struggle be sustained, because things need to change for the better and as soon as possible, because too many people have been suffering for far too long and delay is a disservice to the people.

Let’s end the hypocrisy. The divorce bill should be next. *** 

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pop goes the world: rh positive

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 13 December 2012, Wednesday

RH Positive

A front-page photograph in yesterday’s MST showed a row of solemn Catholic clergy – a cardinal and a brace each of archbishops and bishops – “watching the continuation of the deliberations on the [RH bill], which the Catholic Church condemns, at the House of Representatives.”

manila standard today front page 12-12-12

The front page of MST’s 12-12-12 issue.

Understandably, given their stature and eminence, these are grave, elderly men who have dedicated their lives to pursuing the interests of the Church. In their belief, by opposing the RH bill, they are trying to do their best for their adherents.

Among those clamoring for lawmakers to pass the RH bill are 23 medical groups, among them the Philippine Medical Association, Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Department of Health, Philippine College of Physicians, and others.

The groups combined represent around 267,000 health care professionals (physicians, nurses, and midwives). The PMA said in a statement, “As health care providers we cannot be reduced to being for or against the bill because our obligation has and will always be about saving lives, and the longer we stay quiet, the more lives are lost.”

pma website

Screenshot of Philippine Medical Association website.

Like the Catholic clergy so adamantly on the opposite side of the fence, these health care providers are also believe they are doing their best for those they serve.

There can be no compromise in this regard, because such a bill is all or nothing. A watered-down version would not deliver all the benefits sought by the bill’s authors and supporters.

But what do old celibate men know firsthand about having wives and children or raising a family in dire circumstances? By the very nature of their vocation, they are not allowed to have personal experience of this. They make their stand based on their faith.

Medical practitioners, however, themselves have families of their own and are directly engaged in caring for pregnant women, mothers, and newborn infants. They make their stand based on their knowledge, experience, and personal observation over years of medical practice.

This is how our lawmakers need to make decisions – based on science and facts, not on the dictates of a religious text or dogma that not everyone in this society believes in.

anti rh congress

Why some representatives voted against the RH Bill on 12-12-12. Image found on Facebook here.

That would be the logical and sensible way of doing things because in a society with a degree of diversity such as ours, not everyone is Catholic. Not everyone disagrees with the provisions of the RH bill. Merely because a traditionally powerful clique in society wishes to continue holding sway over politics as it did in centuries past does not mean that we should allow this to continue today.

Allowing one Church to have their way in this would make us no different from a religious state such as those in the Middle East. Doing so would negate the provision for the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Doing so would render useless the efforts made by many throughout history who championed science and the right to personal choice and suffered for defying the intransigence of the dominant ideology.

The inflexibility of the Catholic Church’s stand on the RH bill and other current events shows how stuck it is in the past. For some of the clergy to have blamed events as disparate as the devastation caused by typhoon Pablo and the devastation caused upon Manny Pacquiao’s face by Juan Manuel Marquez’s powerful right hand to the wrath of God is to impute a gullible credulity to the populace.

The RH bill should not be made a religious issue because it is a health issue. Let us hope lawmakers will see through the smokescreen of swung censers and make their decisions based on facts for the good for the many, not the few.

* * * * *

sire of sires in philippines graphic 3 dec 2012Thanks to Philippines Graphic magazine for publishing a short story of mine, “Sire of Sires” in their December 3 issue. The story is set at the racetrack, and might be interesting for those who like their fiction brewed black, no sugar.   *** 

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pop goes the world: muscles and peace through yoga

NO COLUMN 5 Dec, Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD, by Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  9 December 2012, Sunday

Muscles and Peace Through Yoga

There are many studies proving that work-related stress is linked to many physical and mental health problems. The word “stress” comes from “distress”, which means “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.” The term comes from a Latin term that means “to draw or pull apart.”

Certainly this is what many feel when laboring under the tension that modern life brings. We are pulled in many directions by work and home obligations, often feeling unable to cope and looking for a way to ease the strain.

Coping mechanisms can be destructive – alcohol, late nights, smoking, unhealthy lifestyles and habits – and positive – exercise, healthy eating, creative hobbies and sports, an interest in spiritual pursuits.

Increasingly popular nowadays is yoga. The word comes from the Sanskrit that means “to yoke, to connect” and its emphasis is on the mind-body connection, the interrelation between physical and mental fitness.

Yoga studios have burgeoned in the metropolis since the early part of the last decade, although yoga has been around since at least the ‘70s. I recall my father and his contemporaries in media attending yoga and meditation classes at Ananda Marga (still around in Quezon City) at that time.

Today, yoga studios offer a wide range of classes, from vinyasa to hot flow to anti-gravity yoga. Some emphasize physical fitness, others infuse a spiritual component into the practice with chanting of sutras and mantras.

In search of a sustainable activity suitable for an unfit, sedentary, middle-age person, I happened upon Bliss Yoga Manila in Jupiter Street, Makati, and have attended several classes there.

The front of the Bliss Yoga Manila studio in Makati. One wall is hung with three banners depicting the seven chakras.

Gentle Flow with instructor Jill Kobza is, as described by the Bliss Yoga Manila website, “a slightly-slower paced practice, with focus on the foundation and alignment of poses…emphasis is on awareness, control, and effective use of the breath, as well as on building strength and flexibility.” The class is good for those new to yoga.

The poses mentioned are called “asanas”, and look effortless in photos of advanced yogis and yoginis (male and female practitioners, respectively), but they are in truth difficult to do for the newbie. Merely stretching like a triangle in the “downward dog” position or in “plank” (full pushup) or chaturanga (half-pushup) makes you use muscles you probably haven’t felt since high school calisthenics.

Yoga, however, also ensures that each person practice at their own pace and perform comfortable variants of the poses until they get stronger.

Jill Kobza’s Gentle Flow class is perfect for beginners. She is gentle and patient and guides everyone through the surya namaskar – Sun Salutation sequence -  and other poses in a soothing voice.

Buddha has abs! This statue sits in a back corner.

Nancy Siy’s Jivamukti class may also be attended by people at all levels of physical fitness. It is a form of yoga developed by a Western teacher, and incorporates chanting from the Patanjali sutras; Nancy chooses one sentence that conveys a lesson on a trait, such as aparigraha or non-possessiveness. There is nothing religious here, only philosophical and moral.

Jivamukti is more challenging in terms of asanas, and Nancy goes around the studio to correct each student’s pose and help those who need to reach a bit farther or hike their hips up higher. In the latter part of each class, she puts students in the savasana (corpse) pose – lying flat on their backs in repose, with eye pillows for relaxation and to enhance meditation. A lecture tape may be played or silent meditation encouraged. Students are asked to listen to their bodies, to deliberately release any tension, to “let go” with each exhale.

Basic yoga gear: cotton strap (to help stretch the legs and arms), cork block (for elevation during certain poses, until the body gets stronger and more flexible), towel (to absorb sweat and prevent slipperiness), and mat.

Jivamukti, Nancy says, helped her “…calm (her) mind and deal with the external clutter of daily life…” At the time she started, in 2009, she was “irritable, angry, empty,” and “felt that there must be something more than the repetitive cycle of everyday life. Yoga paved the way for my healing and emotional growth.”

Nancy was “awakened to the reality of animal suffering” and has also adopted veganism as a way of life. She was drawn to Jivamukti and its emphasis on ahimsa (non-violence) and “compassion for all beings.”

Jill and Nancy end their classes with a chant of om, giving thanks to their students, and the valediction “Namaste” –  “the spirit in me greets the spirit in you.”

This door handle at the Makati studio is in the shape of a hand lifted in the abhaya mudra (seal/gesture of no fear, protection, benevolence, assurance).  

Yoga is beyond the current popularity it is experiencing as some sort of trendy fitness program. It is an ancient discipline, one of the “six “orthodox” schools of Hindu philosophy,” dating back to before the Common Era and given formal shape in the early centuries CE.

For us today in modern times, it can become a way of life, one that incorporates physical wellness and philosophy into an integrated whole. ***

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

Follow: Facebook (Bliss Yoga Manila), Twitter (@BlissYogaManila), and Instagram (@blissyogamnl).

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pop goes the world: flag of our fathers

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today29 November 2012, Thursday

Flag of Our Fathers

“Ang mamatay ng dahil sa ‘yo…”

How many times have we sung the national anthem as students, right hand over our hearts, listening to the stirring martial tune as our flag waved proudly in the breeze?

Few can fail to be touched even to some small degree by the emotions that the sight of the flag evokes within us. National pride and unity, patriotism, and our hopes and dreams for our country are all mixed up in the red, white, and blue and the vibrant yellow of the eight-rayed sun and three five-pointed stars.

So inspiring to its citizens are a nation’s colors that we emblazon clothes and objects with this icon. Search the Internet for “clothing with Philippine flag” and you’ll come up with a lot of images of such clothes and shoes for sale.

One of many Internet companies that offer Philippine-flag themed apparel. Image here.

Perhaps the most famous promoter of the use of Philippine flag on clothing and merchandise is champion boxer and lawmaker Manny Pacquiao. He set a fashion trend and in so doing changed culture norms; Filipinos who were once ashamed or embarrassed or too colonial-minded to proclaim their origin now wear such clothes abroad, as a mark of pride in their national and ethnic identity.

But in so doing, the country’s most accomplished athlete of all time – and those who wear clothes and gear with flag designs – may be breaking the law.

Republic Act No. 8491, approved by the Tenth Congress on 12 February 1998, prescribes “the code of the national flag, anthem, motto, coat-of-arms, and other heraldic items and devices of the Philippines,” otherwise known as the “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.”

Chapter I, Section 34 prohibits a wide gamut of activities that may “cast dishonor or ridicule upon the flag or over its surface.” It is expressly forbidden in line (e) to “wear the flag in whole or in part as a costume or uniform.”

This is the reason that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office had to pull its Manny Pacquiao commercial from television. In the TVC, Pacquiao is seen wearing a jacket with the flag on its front. The PCSO, being a government agency, naturally had to comply with the law once this provision in the Flag Law was pointed out to them.

Champion boxer and lawmaker Manny Pacquiao in the Philippine pride jacket he made famous. Image here. 

Which brings us to the question:  how relevant is the Flag Law to present times?

The same section, line (g), prohibits the printing, painting, or attaching a representation of the flag “on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions, and other articles of merchandise,” something that we see a lot of in gift shops nowadays.

Line (h) prohibits the “display in public [of] any foreign flag, except in embassies and other diplomatic establishments, and in offices of international organizations,” but they do this sometimes in front of hotels and conventions centers when foreign dignitaries are visiting.

Line (i) does not allow the use or display of the flag as part “of any advertisement or infomercial,” but this has been done, not only for products but by government agencies as well.

Line (j) forbids the display of the flag “in front of buildings or offices occupied by aliens,” but what if the office building houses both a government agency and foreign embassies?

There is also a provision on illuminating the flag at night (Section 6, but this is sometimes disregarded) and for a flag-lowering ceremony by government offices every Friday afternoon (Section 18), but I have never seen this done.

And these are just the provisions pertaining to the flag; there are still more, concerning the motto (yes, we have one, it’s “maka-Diyos, maka-tao, makakalikasan, at makabansa,” but when was the last time you saw or heard this anywhere?), the coat-of-arms, the great seal, and “other heraldic items and devices.”

Going over the entire law, one gets the feeling that it was written in the 1930s or some other conservative point decades in the past, rather than a mere fourteen years ago.

Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, a vexillology and heraldry enthusiast, wrote an interesting column in 2005 on this topic, calling RA 8491 “an example of a badly, and ignorantly, written law.” He pointed out contradictions and said the enforcement of some its provisions are “absolutely impossible,” especially with respect to its display in public.

The flag law was amended in 2010, but the changes do not address all the inconsistencies. It still forbids the wearing of the “flag, seal, coat-of-arms (in whole or in part) as part of a costume or uniform as a fashion accessory or merely as a design element,” but allows these to “be incorporated as part of the uniform of Filipinos representing the Philippines in international sports, cultural, or scientific competitions or official functions with the approval of the NHI [National Historical Institute].”

This law needs to reflect more accurately the spirit of the age. In these times, with technology allowing the easy reproduction of the flag image upon all sorts of items, it is virtually unenforceable anyway. And why curb the enthusiasm of Filipinos to display their flag on clothing or items, as long as this is not done in a disrespectful manner?

“Let your freak flag fly,” goes a popular saying. All some of us want is to be allowed to carry the image of the flag of our fathers close to us, to remind us always of our Inang Bayan, that we have sworn to die for, if the time should ever come. *** 

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pop goes the world: killing you softly

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 November 2012, Thursday

Killing You Softly

We have known for decades that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption kill.

But despite near-constant bombardment with anti-smoking and moderate-drinking advertisements that have used all the persuasive approaches from soft-sell to fear-arousing communication, people still persist in the habit, making lung cancer and cirrhosis among the top causes of death in the Philippines.

A strong anti-smoking ad using FAC. Image here.

Now lawmakers have passed the “Sin Tax” bill that will raise revenue for the government while attempting to curb the health risks that go with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 5727 last June, while the Senate, voting 15-2, passed their own version – Senate Bill 3299 – the other night. The versions will be reconciled in a bicameral session, after which the final version of the bill will be presented to the President.

The Lower House version would generate an additional P30 billion in revenue for the government from higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products.

The Senate version would harvest around P40 billion by imposing a unitary tax of P26 per cigarette pack by 2017 on a tiered rate increase scheme, while rate increases on alcohol taxes are to start next year, also on a tiered basis.

What would be the effect of higher taxes on these “sin” products”?

There is an infographic on the Internet that portrays likely scenarios based on a nationwide survey conducted by Laylo Research Strategies last August.

The poll findings show that 23 percent of Filipino adults smoke “regularly” (at least weekly). Of the Filipino adult population, only 4 percent of females smoke regularly while 42 percent of males do. Among the poorest – the Class E demographic – 27 percent smoke.

Should the Sin Tax bill be finally imposed, it was projected that 17 percent will stop smoking immediately, 31 percent will slowly stop smoking, 19 percent will buy a cheaper brand, 25 percent will lessen their consumption, while only 8 percent would continue the habit and to buy the same brand.

The infographic wound up with this takeaway: “…half of regular smokers will possibly quit their vice.”

Tobacco farmers and alcohol product factory workers descended en masse upon the Senate last Monday to protest the passage of the Bill, which they said would take away their livelihoods.

But SB 3299 has planned for that – it sets aside P750 million for programs to benefit displaced tobacco farmers.

Aside from P2 billion for tax administration, it also allocates P23 billion in health insurance for families, P750 million for an anti-smoking campaign, P100 million yearly for regional hospitals and medical centers, and P10 million for each of 618 district hospitals.

The Department of Health, under Secretary Enrique T. Ona, has programs for preventive health care that emphasize “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Among these are the Violence and Injury Prevention Program (accidents being one of the top causes of morbidity in the country), National Dengue Prevention and Control Program, National STI/HIV Prevention Program, National Rabies Control and Prevention Program, and the Smoking Cessation Program.

For its part, government charity arm Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office gives financial assistance for the medical bills of people suffering from lung cancer and liver-related ailments.

So while the government earns from added taxes on smokes and drinks, it also spends on health programs that will alleviate and cure the illnesses caused by these products.

Would it not be better if people just quit smoking and avoided drinking to excess – or didn’t’ start at all?

Preventive health care helps preserve a person’s health and ensure a better quality of life by minimizing or reducing the risk of disease by avoiding possible risk factors that are under an individual’s control. Doctors have for many years been advocating lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding carcinogenic substances like tobacco and alcohol.

But it seems it needs this Sin Tax to break people of their smoking addiction. If the forecasts come true and half of all current smokers will quit because of the higher taxes on tobacco, then we should see a lower incidence of lung cancer in the coming years.

Smoking kills. This is not just a tagline, it’s the truth. We all know people – family, friends – who have died from lung cancer or emphysema. It’s not a good way to go – the oxygen tanks and plastic tubes up the nostrils, the strained and desperate heaving to catch another breath, the slow decay and rotting from inside over many agony-filled years.

Perhaps the Sin Tax will finally shake smokers from their fog-bound addiction to ditch the habit and adopt a healthier lifestyle to have more quality time to spend with their loved ones.

It’s about time, Philippines. Stop killing yourself slowly.  ***

“Smoke-free in Manila” image here.

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pop goes the world: what’s in a name?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today15 November 2012, Thursday

What’s In a Name?

Hi, I’m Jenny. My full name is Jennifer Maria Rebecca. What’s your name?

Chances are, perhaps eight times out of ten, you will answer me with a name that’s either Spanish or Anglo-Saxon in origin. Our names are, more often than not, Jose (nickname Joey), Reena, John Derek, Kevin, Luisa (nickname Louie), and so on, while down south, many names are Arabic in origin.

I know very few people who have names coming from the Philippine languages.

Many people will argue that the names we bear are family names (which is why there are so many “Juns”), traditional ones handed down from one generation to the next and thus have sentimental value regardless of ethnic origin; or saint’s names, therefore a religious reason.

But have so few realized that perpetuating such a practice shows that our collective mindset is still colonial, and that for reasons of emotion and inertia we cannot move away from the names given by the foreigners who imposed their religion and their culture on our forebears?

Some Filipinos have made a deliberate choice to reshape their personal identity along nationalistic lines by using Filipino names. The most famous example would be the De Guia family – economic researcher-turned-multi-awarded-filmmaker Eric took the name Kidlat Tahimik (quiet lightning), and his sons are named Kawayan (bamboo), Kabunyan (name of a deity), and Kidlat (lightning); Kabunyan’s son is named Kalipay (happiness), his wife is Malaya (freedom).

A friend, PhD candidate and University of the Philippines professor Julienne Baldo-Cubelo, named her son Alon (wave) and her daughter Diwa (consciousness), a decision she made to honor our culture and make a statement about her personal nationalistic advocacy and beliefs.

The word “diwa,” though, is one of the 300 or more Sanskrit loanwords in our language. So what would be considered genuine Philippine names – those coming from the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language that is the root of the majority of Philippine languages? From the Old Malay influenced by Indian culture or the later Classic Malay with Arabic and Persian words? How far back in time do we go to find the language that should mark our true national identity?

Even without knowing that yet, though, I would rather take the loanwords given by the mostly peaceful Majapahit, Chinese, and Muslim traders over the Anglo and Spanish names foisted on our culture by colonizers.

How about the name of our beloved islands?

Dr. Nathan Quimpo, a political science professor at the University of Tsukuba, gives in his excellent essay “Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality, and Ethnocentrism” (2003) the history of our country’s name:

“Filipino comes from the word Filipinas, of which Philippines is the English translation. Felipinas was the name given by the Spanish explorer Ruy de Villalobos to Tendaya (Leyte or Samar) in 1543 in honor of the Spanish crown prince, Philip (Felipe in Spanish),who later became King Philip II (r. 1556-98)…

“From their very origins then, Philippines and Filipino are colonial names, and as such, are contradictory to the term nationalism. Simply on the basis of the colonial roots of Philippines, it can already be argued that the country´s name should be changed.

“Indeed, many former colonies have discarded their colonial appellations and adopted titles that are of more indigenous or un-colonial derivation: Burkina Faso, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.”

In addition to those examples, India has changed the names of many of its major cities from their British colonial spellings back to the local versions – to Mumbai from Bombay in 1995, Kolkata from Calcutta in 2001, and so forth.

I recall that when I was a young child in the 1970s, there was an attempt by then-president Ferdinand Marcos to change the country’s name to “Maharlika.”

There was opposition to the name change by those citing tradition and history, and Dr. Quimpo adds that according to one argument, Maharlika was inappropriate because in Sanskrit it means “big phallus!”

But “the main reason why Maharlika did not pass,” says Dr. Quimpo, “was that people saw it as Marcos’s ego trip.” This was the nom-de-guerre used by Marcos as a soldier during World War II.

There were other suggestions made by others through the years, among them “Rizal” (the country’s national hero), “Bayani” (the Tagalog word for “hero”), and “Luzviminda” (acronym of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, the three major island groups).

None of these were seriously considered; in fact it the whole thing is considered a non-issue by the majority of the nation’s people, who have more pressing matters to think about, such as how to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

But if we are truly “proud to be Pinoy” as a myriad advertising taglines say, then why don’t we call each other by Filipino names?

Changing the country’s name could be something for future consideration, when our lawmakers aren’t too busy thinking about how to get re-elected or which American president’s speech or blogger’s article to plagiarize next.

What we can do, on our own as individuals, is initiate a slow and gradual culture change by taking nicknames and naming our children something that truly reflects the roots of our national identity.

Spain and America are part of our past, as other countries have been too, and we do owe a lot of what we are now, both good and bad, to their influences. The names of the children of OFWs and emigrants, born all over the world, echo the reality of the diaspora.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t move on from the colonial mindset and reshape the ways we identify ourselves, and decide to let our names reflect what we truly stand for and believe in. *** 

Photo of Kidlat de Guia and Kidlat Tahimik here. Portrait of King Philip II of Spain here. Maharlika comics cover from the ’60s here.

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